Bottom Line: Phenomenal, but don’t rent it expecting a sports drama.
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright
Winning biodrama about Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team in California. The team is struggling from trying to find players within the constraints of their limited budget, whereas other teams are working from big budgets with costly players. With 25-year-old newcomer Pete Brand (Jonah Hill) by his side, Billy must use his way with statistics, computer-generated analyses, firing, and trading to find the perfect lineup for the team.
In case it’s not clear within the plot, MONEYBALL isn’t a baseball film, so to speak. In fact, it’s even less a sports movie. The film is about money and how it controls how well these games are played, not the players and how they shape the outcome. (Hence the title.) The two best things about this grand slam picture may just be the lead performances. This is by far Brad Pitt’s best performance yet. We see Billy Beane not at all as a straightforward, stern manager. He’s laidback from his body language (i.e. putting his feet up on a desk when diligently making phone calls at work) to his verbal speech (if this were a two hour audio track without any visual, he could easily pass for an adolescent or a young adult). Jonah Hill is also great here. As soon as his character arrives, we know his case: he’s adamant in finance but has never played baseball. Actually, it’s a bit more than that. He went to Yale for a degree in economics, has absolutely no mind for baseball, he’s extremely reluctant to fire or trade anyone over, AND he always works as if he is the ever-faithful assistant to Billy, even when Billy skips games to work out. It’s the way he develops his character that is so astounding. Judging from a career made up of films such as THE SITTER, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, and SUPERBAD, one would think he’s a comedian and nothing else, but his role here is completely serious and spot-on with personality.
MONEYBALL is, in a rare case, a film I would recommend to just about anyone. There may have been some missteps along the way, but if there were, I didn’t quite notice them. Maybe the one thing done wrong that I did notice was the length; it ran on about ten or fifteen minutes longer than it should have. Still, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this wonderful, engrossing picture. It’s surely one of the best of 2011.